VINTON–The Town of Vinton places great emphasis on partnering with local businesses and using local talent. That’s one reason Mary Beth Layman, Vinton’s Director of Special Programs, was so gratified when Master Displays Ltd., a local company, submitted the winning proposal to produce this year’s 4th of July fireworks show at the Vinton War Memorial.
“I am very pleased to be working with an experienced local company that is able to work with our budget and familiar with Virginia laws and regulations,” said Layman. “I anticipate a beautiful show for the Vinton 4th of July Celebration.”
Master Displays Ltd is located in Roanoke County, near Catawba. Theirs is a family business, which includes three generations of the Cosgrove family. They have been producing fireworks shows for a variety of events from Pennsylvania to Daytona Beach for over 20 years.
“We are a local business who also go outside of the area to work,” said Johnny Cosgrove.
The company employs 70 seasonal workers with three to five full-time employees. Their audiences vary from smaller crowds at bed and breakfast weddings to thousands of spectators at festivals, carnivals, high school football games, baseball games, and coliseum shows. They have produced fireworks displays at Relay for Life events for the American Cancer Society.
“Our job is a lot of fun,” said Cosgrove. “It’s wonderful seeing a bride’s eyes or being on stage with someone famous or doing events that give back to the community.”
Master Displays will be traveling in September to entertain at a Special Olympics ceremony in Oklahoma and to the Peanut Festival in Emporia, Virginia. On July 4th, they will produce fireworks displays in 18 different locations.
The fireworks show at the Vinton War Memorial this year will be about 20 minutes in length and will feature a combination of aerial special effects shells from regular mortars up to six inch shells. A crew of at least five will produce the show.
Johnny Cosgrove, a Northside High School graduate, is the owner and founder of Master Displays, Ltd. He is a descendant of the Garst family, who have lived in the area since the 1800’s. They still live on part of the 4,000 acres of the original Garst farm, which was the site of the Civil War Battle of Hanging Rock–the only Civil War engagement fought on Roanoke County soil.
Cosgrove’s interest in fireworks started with sparklers at age 6. His father, John Cosgrove, was a demolitions expert in the Marines, and still shoots fireworks, as do Johnny Cosgrove’s wife, Tracy, and their four children. Master Displays is a family-oriented company. Many of their crews include family members as shooters.
At a recent postgame show for the Lynchburg Hillcats baseball team at City Stadium, Cosgrove’s crew included his wife, Tracy, and a daughter, in addition to his assistants Doug Moody and Brandon Tolley.
Cosgrove is meticulous about safety during the shows. As with other companies, they are trained and state-licensed. He and his shooters wear full firefighter turn-out gear during the performance, including helmets and gloves. They are equipped with fire suppression apparatus. In fact, Cosgrove and his wife are EMS qualified.
“Launching fireworks is safer than driving a car when you follow simple procedures,” said Cosgrove. “Our only significant injury has been stepping into a hole on a field when someone forgot to mow the grass.”
Festivities will begin at 6:00 p.m. at the Vinton War Memorial, and will include a flag ceremony presented by Vinton’s VFW Post 4522, Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, and veterans of World War II and Korea at 7:15 p.m. A Civil War skirmish by the 60th Virginia Company K will follow at 8:15.
Ongoing children’s activities will include a juggler, and a balloon artist, in addition to inflatable games and mazes. Festival foods will be on sale throughout the evening.
Germaine Fletcher will perform the National Anthem and other patriotic music. This year’s band is the Kings, who feature the oldies, but also a variety of other genres. The fireworks display by Master Displays will begin at 9:30 p.m.
Those celebrating at the Vinton War Memorial on the 4th should bring a chair or blanket for seating on the lawn or in the parking lot; but no pets, no firecrackers or other pyrotechnics, and no alcohol are permitted.